What do you value?

My boyfriend used to be a senior financial analyst. He made six figures, dressed in office-type clothes, had great benefits, and worked at his computer in a climate-controlled space–an office to himself, with an actual door.
He hated it.

Now he is an apprentice electrician who works mostly outside, in all temperatures, toting a bunch of tools (and his lunch and water) from his vehicle to the site, wearing a hardhat, workboots, long workpants, and an orange safety vest. He comes home often covered in dirt and sweat, makes a fraction of his previous salary, and has almost no benefits.
He loves it.

Why am I sharing this story? Because how we value ourselves and our work matters. My boyfriend is not insane–he simply has a different set of values than many people today. What he values is creating something more lasting than a spreadsheet, working with his hands and his mind, and not working for a corporation fixated on making bank rather than making something real. Changing careers was his choice; and, although an apprentice, he is not working for free.

I, like him, have also chosen a different path. I could work in a firm and make more money (likely, a lot more money), but then I wouldn’t get to choose the cases I would take or the clients I represent. I am driven by an idealism that artists should be able to make livings making their art and that those who steal their work should be made to make up for it (and hopefully learn their lessons!).

The New York Times published an article recently discussing how how creatives are devalued and culturally expected to like it. That is something quite different from choosing to make less money in exchange for something else of personal value. It’s certainly quite different to have your work, the results of your mind and your hand, taken and used by someone who didn’t even have the decency to ask. Or to be told that you should feel lucky to have your work seen (talk about adding insult to injury!)

In my opinion, and this is one of the reasons I choose to do what I do and for whom I do it: the truth is that others should feel lucky to see and use your work. So please value yourself and your work. What you do is more than “creating content”–it is making art.

I’ll step off my soapbox, now.